Home > Taming Cross(13)

Taming Cross(13)
Author: Ella James

I use an old rag I grab out of a janitor’s cart on the first floor to scuff the Mach up some—more inconspicuous that way—and check my map again. Almost six hours to Mexicali, and La Casa del Amor.

Thoughts of the strip club bring up thoughts of Marchant Radcliffe and his whore house, the ridiculously named ‘Love Inc.’ I've gotten to know the guy, and he's decent, but I can’t get over that dumb name. I think he should call it Blow Jobs for Big Money.

I only got to know of the place because Lizzy sold her virginity there. To pay my medical bills. She even opened a savings account for me, which I haven't been able to get her to close yet. I'm not touching the money, and I think she knows that. It’s not like I was penniless when I had my accident.

Sometimes, when I think about it too long, I sort of hate her for it.

And the two million dollars—yeah, two million—just sits there. I thought about investing it and giving it back to her with gains, but I realized the first time I tried to read the Wall Street Journal that I’m no investor.

Her groom to be, on the other hand, could probably double it before the wedding.

Hunter West. I was a whore just like good Mr. West, so who am I to judge his past?

Speaking of pasts: Missy King. Meredith Kinsey. I wonder for the thousandth time if Meredith really is Missy King. The guy arrested on drug charges back in Georgia was probably her boyfriend. Maybe she fled to Vegas, where she didn’t have any money, and she met my father, who probably promised to take care of her.

I used to think of myself as one of the good guys. Sure, I slept around, but every woman I was with wanted to be there, too. They wanted it as much as I did, and when it was over, we usually parted as friends. I try to stay away from anyone who might want something else.

See? One of the good guys.

But for almost a year, I knew what happened to Missy King and I pretended I didn’t. I let fate stay its hand while I sat on her secret. While I protected my father. I let him get away with something abhorrent, and then, that night outside Hunter West's house, I paid for it. Jim Gunn, evil fucker that he is, was doling out justice in my case. I still want to kill him—preferably after feeding him his balls—but I know by the time this is over, I'll see just how much I deserve what I got.

I take a sharp curve around a clump of cacti and my body tenses at the off-balance sensation I get from steering. I’ve got a fucked up left hand, and I can't even ride a bike without losing my damn nerve. No way I'll be saving anybody.

And for the first time yet, I wonder if I'm really going to Mexico to die.



ALMOST SIX HOURS later, I cross the border at Mexicali, the capital of the state of Baja California, Mexico, with my passport and a story about riding through the country. In the bottom of my bag is a second passport—one for Meredith Carlson.

It's my hand, I tell myself. Because I'm disabled now, I need to feel like I can actually do something; that’s why I took off on this rescue mission. But doing something is telling the cops. Not riding into a drug cartel’s turf.

As I get into the bustle of Lazaro Cardenas Boulevard, with its half-dozen lanes of thick traffic baking under the hot sun, I take a very stupid risk, balancing with my left shoulder and hand and sticking my right into my pocket, where I grasp Meredith's picture and throw it out into the wind.

The second after, I’m wrenched with regret. Just another sign that I'm losing my shit here. A lump of emotion rises in my throat, but I swallow hard and navigate the traffic. I focus on finding my way to Islas Agrarias Boulevard, which will take me to a little side street—Av de Los Serdan—where I should find La Casa del Amor.

I'm in shoulder-knotting traffic for almost an hour, feeling the sweat drip through my hair and down my neck, wondering what will happen when I get to the strip club, when I finally spot the turnoff onto Islas Agrarias. I’m relying on visual memory of the map as I look for Calz Tierra something, the smaller street that will take me to the even smaller Av de Los Serdan.

The roads here are paved, but it’s been a while. Small, square business signs—nothing but colorful paper plastered over plywood squares—line Islas Agrarias, advertising party spots, a lawyer’s office, free colas. There’s no grass anywhere—just piles of sand that sprinkles across the road as a dry wind slaps me in the face.

I squint through the sweat in my eyes, pass an old brown Jeep, and get into the right lane, where I think I see Calz Tierra. Yeah, that’s my road. Calz Tierra…something. I can’t read the words. My eyes are too dry. I make a slow turn onto the street with my heart hammering in my chest, taking in the few food shops and businesses that look like little more than roadside stands. I pass a fruit vendor and someone selling something that looks like lottery tickets, and then I’m here.





IF THERE'S ONE thing I've learned from spending time at St. Catherine's Clinic, it's that I lived a mostly selfish life before. It didn’t start off easy, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a selfish girl with dreams and desires all centered around myself.

My mother died in childbirth—her labor came on too fast, and I was born in the car—and after a month suckling bottles fed to me by my father, I wasn't gaining weight, so he passed me off to my Aunt Britta and Uncle Walter. They already had a one-year-old, my cousin Landon, but still, they made time and space for me. I saw my father on the weekends until I was four, when he was involved in a one-motorcycle wreck on a lonely Georgia highway. Just before I started kindergarten, my aunt and uncle adopted me and made me Meredith Kinsey.

Aunt Britta always made sure I looked nice and knew the things a girl should know. Cross your legs when you're wearing a skirt and don't talk to strange men. Don't go close to big vans with dark windows. That kind of thing. I did okay, I guess, until I hit puberty, and by then I'd started feeling...left out. Maybe it's because Aunt Britta was dark-haired, with brown eyes, and I'm so fair, or maybe it was because she used to introduce herself at teacher conferences as my aunt. I wanted be a normal kid with a mom and a dad. Not an orphan.

When one of Landon's friends kissed me on a freshman/sophomore class trip to the aquarium, I felt so good…like this combination of comfort and excitement. It wasn't too long before kissing boys became my thing.

For years, I went to bed hugging my pillow, dreaming of marrying whoever I was kissing at the time. I would marry my crush and we would have a baby, and when I got six or seven months pregnant, I would go to the hospital and stay until I gave birth. No dying in the car. After that, we'd be a family. I wouldn't be the left-out little girl. I would be the mother. I would have a daughter with strawberry-colored hair just like mine, and when I took her to the grocery store, our outfits would color coordinate.

I started writing stories in high school, and it was around that time I met Sam, the band director. I learned how much I didn't know about what men and women did, and for a while, I relished the pleasant things he taught me. The world was worth being in—because someone wanted me.

I was upset after Sam left town. Devastated, really. I had this crazy idea that I would get a job in Alpharetta, where he had transferred, and I would marry him, but Aunt Britta (who had no idea why I wanted to move to Alpharetta), insisted I go to college. I got a scholarship to UGA and went for something I thought would be easy and maybe exciting: journalism.

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